With the bubble of music here in Northern Ireland as intense as it is, it is sometimes easy to forget that the bands from here actually do quite a touch of jet-setting in their spare time. Back in May I managed to get caught up with one of its more frequent travellers John Dinsmore, lead singer of Warrenpoint born rock outfit, The Beat Poets. Always a revised source of music business information I decided to try and find out a bit more about their trip out to this year’s South By South West amongst all the usual trappings of recording, releasing and writing.
– Since you first strode out to SXSW (South By South West) last year, things have taken a fairly busy turn. You’ve been seemingly everywhere.
The best way I can put it is, it’s like running in sand. It is constantly busy but you sometimes feel like your still in the same spot. To be fair it has been a great year. We spent a lot of time working on a sound, new songs and a lot of studio visits rather than gigging – something we have never done on a large scale until now.
Most of our time previously was spent gigging without properly developing the band into a sound that we really wanted. We have been releasing constantly since last November and will continue to do so which is for me something we also neglected.
So, yeah it has been busy – mostly learning, developing and preparing to basically relaunch the band which has been growing steadily so far in 2010.
– Is there anything you did differently at this year’s festival compared to last, any lessons?
Last year we did six shows at SXSW, press and promotion mostly; which really helped put the band out in the international music scene. Particularly America and Canada, where I believe our sound would be well suited. This year was just as busy, cramped with a lot of high profile meetings and basically lining up stuff for the next twelve months. If we hadn’t of played the year previously none of the 2010 SXSW would have happened.
…kinda shows how long it takes to work an area of interest and to build on it. The biggest lesson for anyone going to SXSW is to prepare months in advance!
– It’s clear that the US is a genuine target, both touring wise and in terms of exposure. Did you feel there was much of a response from your syndications on TV show, The Hills?
I have always felt the greatest response to our music has been across the water. I don’t know any bands that sound like us over here either to be fair, but I definitely feel the best market is over there. We have been over there playing and promoting since 2007, which I’m not sure a lot of people realise. It landed us some great stuff like The Hills, the Sonicbids endorsement, features in SXSW Magazine etc…and even just this week an iPhone app endorsement with Mobile Roadie through the El Media Group. So the same people that do The Doors, Madonna, The Black Lips and so on, are part of our application’s development.
It is a massive market and extremely hard to get noticed in but we have taken good steps at SXSW this year, so just gotta keep working at it.
– In terms of the music community here at home you’ve certainly set yourselves apart by aiming at a much larger, one might say ‘stadium rock’ sound, echoing (no pun intended) the likes of U2. Has that opened a few doors?
Yeah it definitely has but it has been a mixed bag, and sometimes a slow burner – as all bands find (not easy!).
The new songs have been getting a lot of radio play, especially at day time. We’ve played some great gigs including SXSW, Marley Park, Glasgowbury and the Canadian Music Week; won several awards with Xfm London, Today FM and got good media coverage with the new releases. But it is a strange mix over here, we’re not a band that’s seen about the scene so to speak but are working relentlessly behind it to promote it, push ourselves and other new artists such as Silhouette.
In the last six months I have been making myself more visible socially, and got to know bands such as General Fiasco, And So I Watch You From Afar and Fighting With Wire; and find chatting with them highly inspirational. Three amazing bands who proved they can be successful outside the local scene and hopefully we can prove that our belief in a bigger sound and progressing outside the island is justified also.
– Recently there has been a much richer layering to The Beat Poets (personally speaking). Have you played about much this year in development?
Totally, it was our major focus over the last year – hence the big reduction in gigging. We basically got rid of most of our set and re-focused to develop a ‘Beat Poets sound’. Before this our set was a mixture of influences that wasn’t blended into anything specific. It has taken longer than anticipated to do this, but definitely one of the best things we have ever done as a band.
– You’ve been fairly strict with your releases to date, putting the work in to build each one up individually. Is there a ‘five year plan’ as such?
We have ourselves a twelve month plan for the minute, with this business the way it is we look no further and leave ourselves flexible to change as things happen, but we have got our things into a lot of different stuff recently so it is a very exciting time.
– Can you reveal any plans at this stage for an album, or is it still a little too early in the calendar to be talking about that?
We are working regularly at it, and are in the studio a lot. It has been a learning curve both with developing the sound and the album, as some songs cut it others don’t. We have been highly critically in a positive way of everything we do now and it definitely brings out the best in us.
We will have more announcements at the end of the summer.
– New single ‘One By One’ will be out on May 3rd, how will you be marking the occasion?
Our headline show in the Spring & Airbrake is marking the start of the release and we’ll be launching a new ‘Beat Poets iPhone’ application next month to coincide with the release.
…I know have one but not sure if any other unsigned Northern Irish bands have one so hopefully it’ll be a first.
…gotta embrace technology these days!